Social Media is an Addictive Drug

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Social Media is an Addictive Drug

Feb 24, 2023

The Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma” looks at social media platforms through the lens of the apps’ creators and offers a unique perspective that will impact almost any one who watches it.

“There are only two industries that call their customers “users”: illegal drugs and software,” computer scientist Edward Tufte said. This quote perfectly captures what social media can do to the human mind and alludes to why I agree that social media has a negative impact on students’ mental health and potentially on their learning.

A 2022 pew research survey found the slight majority of teens admit that giving up social media would be a difficult task. This furthers the idea I previously mentioned that social media is acting as a “drug” that students seem to be addicted to.

In my own experiences, I can attest that this is the case for some people and the addiction to social media distracts them from everything else in life. If you just sit and look at students in group settings, I can almost guarantee half of them will be on their phones — rather than communicating and being present with those around them, they are scrolling through apps looking at what others are doing. The same can be said for students in the classroom, I have seen students scrolling on instagram on their laptops and professors have no idea.

Drugs are distracting for its users — often the users stop and then start again and then before they know it the same amount of the drug doesn't give them the same high anymore and they have to use more and the cycle just continues. This same concept can be used for social media.

Social media chemically rewires the brain as drugs do which is why it’s hard for people to stop using it. According to an article by Harvard University researcher Trevor Haynes, “When you get a social media notification, your brain sends a chemical messenger called dopamine along a reward pathway, which makes you feel good.”

Think of it this way, you put a student in class and tell them to put their phones away and yet the entire time the student will likely sit there wondering if they got a new like on instagram or a new snap from their crush — just longing for that dopamine “hit.” In another situation, you put a student in a class with no restriction on phones and the entire time they will most likely just scroll and not pay attention — so you either have a distracted student fiending for a peek at their phone or a student completely consumed by their phone.

It makes perfect sense to me that Seattle’s public school would file a lawsuit against these social media platforms. Not only are they a distraction for students from school and act as a drug for them but they also can severely damage their mental health. “Multiple studies have found a strong link between heavy social media and an increased risk for depression, anxiety, loneliness, self-harm and even suicidal thoughts,” a nonprofit mental health group wrote.

Social media has taken a hold on the minds of young people in ways that I don't think people saw coming. Because of this, I think schools and parents all over the world don't know how to protect their students from this new “drug” thus leading to lawsuits like the one Seattle’s school system filed.

Lydia duPerier, a student in Jon Pfeiffer’s media law class at Pepperdine University, wrote the above essay in response to the following question: "Seattle's public school system filed a lawsuit against Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat and YouTube alleging their platforms have a negative impact on students' mental health and claiming that has impeded the ability of its schools “to fulfill its educational mission.” Do you agree?" Lydia is a Journalism/Mulitmedia Design major.

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